Controversy as Florida fishermen film shark thrashing and stabbing it in the head: ‘I’m speechless’

A video of two Florida fishermen dragging a shark across the beach and stabbing it in the head is causing controversy, with critics accusing the men of animal cruelty.

Bystander Mariana Sabogal filmed the pair on Aug. 19, in New Smyrna Beach, on the state’s eastern coastline.

IN the cutwhich has been viewed nearly 18,000 times, Sabogal tells the men to release the shark into the water, mugging for the camera and dragging the shark across the beach.

“Could you please put it back?” she asks.

“You put it back,” one of the men says.

“I’m not a vegetarian, but that doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t do that to animals, she continues.

In response, one of the men says he is committing a “legal harvest”, while another claims he is taking the shark to “feed my family”.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told local news station WESH that it appears the men did not break any laws, as killing sharks is legal under certain circumstances, including by those on land with special permits.

Killing sharks is legal under certain circumstances in Florida

(Mariana Sabogal)

“It is common practice for anglers to cull sharks after landing for ethical and safety reasons,” the FWC said. “This video is not currently under investigation as no violation of state laws regarding the harvesting method has occurred.”

Sabogal was devastated by what she saw, she later wrote on Facebook.

“I’m speechless,” she said. “This is the world we live in and unfortunately we have to accept that there are people in this world who find joy in doing this. We need more shark awareness and education, and better laws to prevent and punish this kind of behavior. Like a shark -love, I feel like I’ve just witnessed someone kill a wonderful creature for absolutely no reason.”

In Florida, anglers 16 and older can fish for sharks with a permit, although the FWC encourages people to release the creatures rather than kill them.

“The shark is an apex predator that plays an important role in marine ecosystems,” the agency says on its website. “Releasing sharks in a way that increases their chance of survival is an important step towards achieving and maintaining healthy, sustainable shark populations.”

Numerous commenters on the video condemned the men for stabbing the shark instead of releasing it.

“What a shame,” wrote WLRN reporter Jenny Staletovish. “Spinner sharks, if that’s what it is, are so cool to see. IUCN [ International Union for Conservation of Nature] classifies them as ‘near threatened’ and vulnerable along [southeast] US coast. And they can jump at almost 50 mph.”

“Guaranteed they didn’t have a license.. and are not going to eat that shark,” added commenter Elizabeth Cano. “I’m all about hunting and fishing sustainably, but sharks are critical to our ocean ecosystems and are protected.”

As The independent hair reportedclimate change and other human impacts on nature are harming shark populations worldwide, driving the fish, which do not feed on humans, into areas where they have greater human contact.

All species are valuable and occupy niches that sustain the larger web of life around them, but sharks are what is called a “keystone species,” according to Dr Neil Hammerschlag, director of the Shark Research & Conservation Program at the University of Miami. That means they have a disproportionate impact on the ecosystem.

They are opportunistic hunters, going after food species that appear in high numbers, keeping different populations in check. In tropical systems, for example, sharks feed on turtles, and allow sea grass to grow in large enough abundance to provide habitat for fish species and sequester carbon.

“If you have these apex predators changing when and where they move to, it will have implications for the rest of the species of where they’re going and where they went,” Dr Hammerschlag said The independent. “It’s going to change the predator-prey interactions in the former and in the new part of their range.”

Shark attacks are extremely rare and rarely fatal, but humans killing an estimated 100 million sharks per yearoften accidentally as part of fishing for other species, or in expensive and often ineffective shark culls.

Overfishing has killed an estimated 71 percent of the total shark population since 1970.

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